Idaho Smallmouth Catch and Release Record
Idaho Fish and Game

Idaho Announces Smallmouth Catch-and-Release Record

Idaho's Dworshak Reservoir continues to cement its reputation as one of the premiere smallmouth bass fishing waters of North America with a new catch-and-release state record that occurred in mid-December. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced that Joey Walton's 23.75-inch smallmouth has been officially verified as the new state record, topping the previous 23.5-inch record caught by Travis Wendt in May 2022, also at Dworshak.

According to the IDFG, Walton caught his fish on Dec. 13, which was a rather cold day. The catch was the culmination of a monthslong quest for a new state record by Walton. He used a measuring board to capture the photos needed for authorities to verify the catch. He then released the giant smallie back into the reservoir to fight another day.

Biologists have determined that right now is the ideal time to target smallmouths at Dworshak. They have identified a cyclical pattern in the waters that relates back to the reservoir's kokanee salmon. In years when the population is high, abundant numbers of kokanee are preyed upon by the smallmouths, jump-starting their growth. In a statement from last March on the IDFG website, fisheries biologist Eli Felts predicted the reservoir is likely going to produce some real monsters in the next few years.

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"Last fall I received multiple reports of smallmouth over 8 pounds being caught, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the current state record be challenged over the next couple of years," Felts said in the release.

There's a very real possibility that the fish Walton received could be the one. The current state record for weight is a 9.72-pound bass caught in October 2006, and was also exactly 23.75 inches. That fish was caught by Dan Steigers from Dworshak.

Of course, the real challenge will be for another angler to catch the fish, which is no easy feat once smallmouths get that large. Still, we'll be watching Dworshak Reservoir very carefully through the late winter and into the spring when the fish are at their fattest. If there's any chance for a 10-pound smallmouth to be caught from the reservoir, it seems this recently released fish is a likely candidate. We'll be keeping an eye on the catches at Dworshak and bring you any updates if someone does indeed catch a record.

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